Former Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg has had his tenure as NATO secretary general extended by a further year, until 1 October 2024, the alliance announced on 4 July 2023.
The decision is to be endorsed by NATO heads of state and government at the alliance’s 2023 Vilnius Summit, which takes place on 11-12 July.
Stoltenberg took office as NATO secretary general on 1 October 2014, meaning he will eventually have been in post for a full decade. He is already the second-longest-serving NATO chief after Joseph Luns of the Netherlands, who served for 12 years and 268 days from October 1971 until June 1984.
In response to the announcement, Stoltenberg was quoted by NATO as saying, “I am honoured by the decision of NATO allies to extend my term as Secretary General. The transatlantic bond between Europe and North America has ensured our freedom and security for nearly 75 years, and in a more dangerous world, our great Alliance is more important than ever.”
Extending Stoltenberg’s tenure gives continuity to the NATO leadership at a time when the allies need to maintain a united front in supporting Ukraine against the Russian invasion that began in February 2022. However, it is also a sign that the allies cannot reach a consensus on who should succeed him.
Candidates mentioned as being in the frame for the job include the prime ministers of Spain and the Netherlands, Pedro Sánchez and Mark Rutte respectively, as well as two female candidates: Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the EU Commission; and Mette Frederiksen, the Danish prime minister. While UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had openly aspired to the job, he withdrew his candidacy in June this year after it became clear the United States would not support it ahead of keeping Stoltenberg in position or promoting a candidate from one of the ‘new NATO countries’ most keenly feeling Russia’s belligerence.
The UK, at any rate, has already provided three NATO secretary generals – Hastings Ismay, Peter Carrington and George Robertson – which is surpassed only by Italy, which has provided four (although Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo was an acting head who only served for 15 days), and equalled by the Netherlands, which has also provided three. Stoltenberg was the first Norwegian to take up the post, succeeding the first Dane, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who served from August 2009 until October 2014.